The angryweasel guide to safe backups

Warning – not software quality related, but perhaps even more important information follows.

I am diligent about backups (and paranoid about losing files)…and frugal, so dumping my backup strategy here for those who may be like minded.

First thing to be paranoid about is work in progress. If it’s code or text based, put it in github and push often. For docs, drawings, and other files, put them in google drive, drop box, or similar. Several times in the past few years I’ve had Windows problems that just couldn’t be solved (and this was working at Microsoft), so having backups in onedrive (and google drive today) make it brain-dead easy to pave a machine and pick up where I left off as quickly as possible. Of course, the same method makes it just as easy to recover from damaged hardware, theft, or malware. I attempt to organize my work, so that a sudden and complete wipe of any of my computers will leave me with little else to do other than re-install the OS and apps (and the latter can also be easily automated).

At home, the whole family backs up files on our Synology server. The server has four 3-terabyte drives striped RAID 5 for (roughly) 9TB of storage. All of our photos since the dawn of digital cameras, all of my presentations and docs and manuscripts ever, backups of computers I haven’t seen in years (need to clean those out), and basically any file my family has even slightly owned is on this server. It’s an integral part of our family and family history.

Of course, losing the Synology server would be heart-breaking, so using the backups rule of three (Scott Hanselman blogged about it here), everything (almost*) on the Synology is backed up to Amazon Drive. The price is competitive with other backup solutions ($60 a year for 1 TB of storage) – but more importantly, it’s easy for anyone in the family to access.

When I first signed up for amazon drive, storage was unlimited, but they now charge another $60 a year for anything between 1 and 2 TB. I have a large CD collection ripped to FLAC that also lives on the Synology server. While I still have the CDs, and could rip them again, I’d rather not. But – I’m also too cheap to pay $60 a year to keep a backup of files that are technically replaceable. So – these ~25,000 FLAC files (just under 400 GiB) all go to Amazon Glacier storage, where retrieval (if I ever need it) is slow, but I pay $1.40 a month (~$17 a year) for peace of mind.

There’s enough weird stuff going on in the world to worry about – with the above, backups are something I don’t worry about at all.

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